Complaint seeks damages arising from sexual abuse of a mentally incapacitated adult by a New Jersey priest.
Attorneys from Williams Cedar, Seeger Weiss, LLP, and Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz have filed a complaint on behalf of their client against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen and The Catholic Community of St. James, also known as St. James Catholic Church. The claim (MID-L-004158-19) was filed on June 3, 2019 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County Law Division.
The plaintiff is currently 54 years old, though he has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, according to mental health professionals. The abuse occurred in 1990 when the victim was 25 years old. The plaintiff first disclosed the abuse in April 2013.
Previously, victims of sexual abuse in New Jersey had to file claims by age 20 or two years after the discovery of harm. Under the revised New Jersey statute of limitations, restrictions have been eased for survivors of child sex abuse. However, the new statute is silent on the abuse of an adult with a significant mental disability.
In this case, the plaintiff has a neurological impairment that was diagnosed as early as kindergarten. He also suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia and mild mental retardation. According to the complaint, he first disclosed the abuse to his sisters in April 2013, after which he began hearing voices that told him to suffocate himself. This prompted his sisters to arrange for an assessment for admission to a mental health facility.
During the assessment, the plaintiff disclosed to an intake nurse that he was molested by Father Kevin P. Duggan years ago in the basement of St. James Catholic Church in Woodbridge, NJ. Duggan was respected and admired by the plaintiff and held power and influence over him. Duggan had directed the plaintiff not to tell anyone what happened.
After the assessment in April 2013, the abuse was reported to police and the Diocese was advised of the assault allegations. The Diocese found the allegations to be credible.
The court filing notes that, as a result of his abuse, the plaintiff suffered and continues to suffer from great physical and emotional harm. The complaint further asserts the resulting trauma severely exacerbated his pre-existing mental health issues. As a result, he has and will continue to require counseling and other treatment.
The filing also notes that, at all material times, the defendants knew or should have known that Duggan was abusing the plaintiff and potentially other individuals and was therefore not fit to serve as priest.
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar are honored to work with attorneys Steven Weiss, Christopher Seeger, Michelle Simpson Tuegel and Mo Aziz, accomplished trial lawyers with significant trial experience in representing survivors of sexual abuse. The team is dedicated to bringing claims on behalf of all types of survivors of sexual abuse who were previously prevented from coming forward due to their age, mental disability or other circumstances.
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